11 Tips to Prevent Shopping out of Boredom

By Marcy Lovitch · August 23, 2022 · 10 minute read

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11 Tips to Prevent Shopping out of Boredom

If you’ve ever spent a lazy Sunday wandering through the mall, not in need of anything in particular, only to emerge with a couple of bags of purchases, you are not alone. Many of us shop as entertainment and wind up having less cash or more credit card debt as a result.

Shopping in-person can be a fun distraction thanks to the music pumping and the eye-catching displays. It’s easy to be transported and suddenly feel that you need that new suit, cell phone, or even sofa. And today, shopping online or on your phone can be equally appealing, as a parade of products and coupons pass before your eyes.

But overspending isn’t good for anyone’s budget or debt ratio. Here, you’ll earn 11 tips to stop shopping out of boredom and protect your hard-earned cash.

What Is Boredom Spending?

Boredom spending, or shopping to fill free time, happens for many reasons. It often occurs when you’re feeling unstimulated or there’s a lack of anything demanding your attention . You might find you’re prone to boredom shopping when you’re procrastinating from work. Going out and buying something can make you feel as if you’ve accomplished something with your time. Or perhaps you do it when you want to escape certain negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, or loneliness.

Some people turn to boredom shopping because it’s easy to do. Technology has allowed us to mindlessly scroll social media, install apps, and instantly link to retailer websites without having to leave the couch. And, if you’ve already stored your payment information online, it’s even more convenient to buy on a whim.

Shopping while bored can be harmless if it’s small-scale and infrequent. But if it’s a habit or your go-to activity the minute you’re freed up, shelling out money on unnecessary purchases can bring on extra debt and bust your budget.

Examples of Boredom Spending

The habit of buying when you’re bored can happen anywhere and anytime. For instance, it can occur when you need to kill time before an appointment and wander into a store to browse and then you wind up purchasing a couple of things because a “buy one, get one” sale was advertised. Or you might suddenly have a free afternoon because a friend canceled plans, so you check Instagram where you see engaging ads for exercise equipment you never knew you needed.

Life offers up many opportunities for boredom shopping. As long as you find yourself with gaps in your schedule, there’s time to potentially give in to impulse buys. And this impulsive buying can lead to overspending and more credit card debt which, thanks to its high interest rates, can be a challenge to pay off.

Recommended: Are You Bad With Money? Here’s How to Get Better

11 Tips to Avoid Boredom Spending

If you need some strategies on how to quit spending money when bored, here are tactics to try. They take a variety of angles to keep you from overspending during your downtime.

1. Reducing Time Spent on Social Media

Changing your spending habits to combat boredom buying likely requires stepping away from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. According to a poll by Pitney Bowes, bored shoppers are more likely than other consumers to use social media for their online shopping. When it comes to platforms, the survey reports bored shoppers visit Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok most often. Google and Amazon are also popular among the same group of shoppers.

Social media can contribute to “fear of missing out” (or FOMO) spending. Trying to keep up with others’ buying habits so you’re not left out can affect mental health, causing stress, unhappiness, and feelings of low self-esteem. People dealing with FOMO may go into debt because of overspending.

To resist temptation and cut down on social media use, consider deleting specific apps or turning off the app’s notifications. There are also apps designed to increase focus and productivity that might be helpful. Freedom and StayFree are two examples; they can block social media and other websites for specific periods of time.

2. Starting a Side Hustle or a Second Job

There are several benefits of having a side hustle, freelance gig, or part-time job. It can bolster your bank account and fill any additional time you might have for boredom spending. Actively pursuing another stream of income can also ignite a passion for something new, increase your professional skills and introduce you to new people.

Another benefit? Having a side gig provides more money to put towards paying bills, decreasing debt, and increasing your savings account.

3. Allowing Splurges in Your Monthly Budget

Expecting yourself to never make boredom purchases may be unrealistic for many people. In that case, come up with a specific dollar amount to automatically slot into your weekly or monthly budget if you know you can’t quit cold turkey. Making an allowance for this type of shopping spree can help offset going completely overboard and having to skimp elsewhere.

Recommended: Developing Good Financial Habits

4. Taking a Break

Unpack what’s going on when you are feeling as if life is tedious. That way, you’ll likely know how to stop shopping when bored.

Feeling bored may signal it’s time to rest, relax by watching a favorite TV show, or engage in some physical activity. That “high” you tend to feel after buying something? You can thank the release of dopamine , a feel-good brain chemical involved in helping to induce pleasure as part of the brain’s reward system. Dopamine is also released when you’re exercising or doing something you enjoy.

You can experience a dopamine rush by partaking in non-shopping activities, such as gardening, listening to music, and meditating. Relaxing with a book, tackling a jigsaw puzzle, cleaning, or baking your favorite sweet are also ways to reap similar emotional rewards while breaking monotony.

5. Setting Financial Goals

Dig into how boredom buying is impacting your financial health. When you see how it’s making it hard to achieve your aspirations, you’ll have added incentive to stop this behavior.

Creating money goals for yourself is an important step towards gaining control over your finances. It’s also an ideal way to start developing good financial habits. Start by writing down your short-term and long-term goals which could include tracking weekly spending, starting an emergency fund, or saving up for a down payment on a house. Once you’ve got it down on paper or in a spreadsheet, prioritize your objectives, give yourself a reasonable time span to meet those goals, and make a commitment to stick to them. Take note of how unplanned splurges will interfere with your budget.

Recommended reading: 7 Ways to Achieve Financial Discipline

6. Rewarding Yourself When You Achieve Your Financial Goals

If you’ve avoided boredom shopping for a couple of months, paid off a credit card bill, or managed to stow money in your savings account, it’s okay to treat yourself to a low-cost item such as a favorite meal or a movie. These little rewards can keep you from feeling deprived and inspire you to stay on course.

There are lots of rewards that don’t cost anything, such as a nature walk or a hot bath. But if you do want to spend, be sure to set a price limit based on what you can actually afford. The goal here is to reward good behavior and encourage you to stay on target and not let boredom purchases rock the boat.

Recommended: Guide to Practicing Financial Self-Care

7. Utilizing the 30-Day Spending Rule

The 30-day spending rule is a strategy to help reign in spending and control the urge of compulsive or impulsive shopping. Basically, the rule is simple,if you see a non-essential item either online or in a store, do not buy it. Instead, make a note in your calendar for 30 days later with details about where you saw the item and its price. When you reach that date, if you still want to purchase the item, you can potentially do so, knowing it’s no longer an impulse buy. Instead, the purchase constitutes a well-considered financial choice.

There are times the 30 days will pass, and you’ll realize you didn’t really want the purchase as much as you originally thought. You may even have forgotten about it completely.

8. Unsubscribing from Email Lists

Retailer emails or newsletters touting sales, discounts, and deals can clutter your inbox and awaken the boredom spending monster. Remove any temptation by unsubscribing from the company’s mailing list.

Usually when you open their email, there’s an “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the correspondence. It may be in small print but if you click or tap it, you should be deleted from their email list. Take note it will probably take a day or two for communications to stop.

You can also opt out of text messages that broadcast sales and special deals to your mobile phone. This can help minimize the temptation to shop when bored.

9. Learning New Skills That Interest You

What sparks your interest: learning web design, becoming a real estate professional, or becoming a chef?
Expanding your abilities in an area of interest can keep boredom at bay, whether you choose to study in person or online. Training up can be useful in making you more marketable and increasing your income.

Learning new skills doesn’t have to equal financial earnings, however. Getting involved in anything that stimulates your brain such as learning a new language, taking up knitting, or signing up for that novel writing class can help you feel more fulfilled and increase self-esteem.

10. Making Shopping Harder

As mentioned above, shopping can be super easy, increasing the odds that you might do some boredom buying. Why not fight back with tricks and tools that help you cut back on spending? The first thing you can do to reduce online and in-app shopping is delete your credit card or payment information from your favorite sites and your phone. This will add a few steps to the checkout process which may reduce the likelihood of spontaneous buying. It will give you time to be mindful about your spending and reconsider.

If you’re out and about, try leaving your credit cards at home to avoid boredom-driven buying.

11. Connecting With Others

Shopping can be a way of coping with being alone, and studies have shown loneliness leads to higher levels of boredom. Interacting with other people is key to cutting down on social isolation. Make plans to see friends and loved ones you enjoy. Volunteering for a local organization, political campaign, or charity is another great way to network. You’ll meet like-minded people and hopefully stay away from stores.

Saving Money With SoFi

Building good financial habits can be rewarding. When you open a SoFi Checking and Savings bank account online, you’ll enjoy some of the best features and tools, enabling you to track spending. When you sign up with direct deposit, you’ll earn a competitive APY, too. Plus, you’ll pay no account fees, so you can get the most out of your money.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

How do I train myself to stop spending money?

The first thing you’ll want to do is stop and ask, “Do I need this or just want it?” If the answer is want, try waiting 30 days and then deciding whether to purchase. Also, find other, non-shopping ways to use those times you feel bored, such as meeting friends, starting a side hustle, or pursuing a hobby. Put the money you save towards a goal like credit card debt, and congratulate yourself for your hard work.

What can I do instead of spending money?

Life presents many other options and healthier ways you can deal with ennui besides spending money. When you’re bored, engaging in another activity such as reading, cleaning, or decluttering can take your attention away, allowing you to feel productive and have a sense of purpose. Spending time with loved ones is another good use of time. Most likely, when you become engrossed in something else besides shopping, the impulse to buy will subside.

What are some spending triggers?

Shopping can stem from both psychological reasons and outside factors. Some people may be triggered to shop because of fear of missing out on what others have; others may need a mood life when feeling sad, anxious, or lonely. Retailers are also known to use specific sensory stimuli both online and in stores to inspire spending.


Photo credit: iStock/Vadym Pastukh

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